Oud Kalbar – a Borneo Anomaly

Between horrible, mediocre and spectacular, there are quite a few oud oils on the market from the eastern part of Borneo island, known as Kalimatan Timur or Kaltim for short. Our Borneo Symphony is an example of a very high quality oil extracted from trees from this part of the island.

But the western part of Borneo island is a region whose oud very few people are acquainted with. And there’s a very good reason why.

The biggest market for oud oils is the Arabian Gulf countries. Their main interest in Indonesian ouds is incense grade wood from the eastern part of the island which has a dry bitter aroma. Oud oil is of course a by-product of harvesting this wood. The Arabs have no interest in wood from western Borneo – Kalimantan Barat, or Kalbar for short – which is too floral and sweet for their taste.

But where Kaltim is the domain of the Arabs, Kalbar is dominated by the Chinese. Kalbar is home to some of the oldest standing wild agarwood trees in the world (and very few they are). But since Chinese agarwood collectors are only interested in large sinking-grade chunks of agarwood, for them there is little use for other grades of wood including grades that are used for distillation.

While most gaharu hunters go into the forest for 2-3 weeks searching for agarwood, the hunter for this oil’s wood typically stays in the forest for months. This allows him to gather wood from the very depths of Borneo forests – places never exploited before. It is such wood that we used to distill this oil.

Oud Kalbar happens to be the first of AgarAura’s own oud distillations after my visit to Indonesia in the spring of 2011, to finally be added to our roster. When the oil was first distilled, I smelled the resulting oil and was shocked. It smelled more like a co-distillation of florals and Borneo wood.
(Needless to say, since we produced this oil ourselves we guarantee that it is 100% pure oud oil)

The boldness of the floral note was so overwhelmingly intense that I decided to store it away and see what happens to it after it ages. My heart sank, just thinking about the kilos upon kilos of extremely high grade wood that went into distilling this oil, wasted. Or so I thought.

Months later, I decided to check the oil again, and was delighted to find that the oil had settled into a lovely woody-floral fragrance. Not only was the scent incredibly complex, but in fact the scent and evolution of the oil on my skin was exactly identical to the layered ‘unfurling’ of the scent of gently heated Kalbar agarwood chips. I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was!

The opening boasts the most floral note I have ever come across in any oud oil. Accents of cananga, osmanthus and other ‘wet’ florals dominate for about a minute before a spicy cinnamon streak emerges. A rich almost jasmine-like quality binds the floral notes together, but without any jasmine note itself. The Borneo signature note serves as a deep base for the scintillant floralicious accents.

As the oil develops on the skin, it begins to displays more of the classic ‘bitter’ woodiness that is the hallmark of Borneo agarwood, and the wet floral notes also become softer. Layer by layer, the development of the scent is identical to that of heated Kalbar agarwood chips.
As the oil develops further and approaches the dry down stage, it becomes drier and more powdery. It now smells like a room where Kalbar agarwood was burned a few hours ago. Dry, sweet, floral and woody.

Note that although this oil boasts a very vibrant floral quality it is by no means an exclusively feminine scent. It does however easily qualify as being one of the most female-friendly ouds.

Addictively complex, thoroughly engaging, deeply satisfying, and extremely limited supply. Don’t miss out on this rare beauty!

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